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Top Croatian director Matko Sršen, who has been hired by the Indiana University of Pennsylvania theater department, will direct “The Brothers Karamazov” in Waller Hall Oct. 17-20.
The play, which features a cast of eight actors, will be performed in the Waller Hall Studio Theater at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
“The Brothers Karamazov” is based on the final novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, published shortly before the Russian author’s death. The production at IUP features a script adapted by Sršen himself.
“You could say that we are co-authors, Dostoyevsky and me,” Sršen said.
The original Russian play was adapted and presented in Croatian first, and now he has translated it into English.
“Our connection with Matko Sršen came from our international exchange program with the National Academy of Dramatic Art in Zagreb, Croatia, established over 10 years ago after a visit to Zagreb by me and Michael Hood, dean of the College of Fine Arts,” said Brian Jones, department chair and lighting designer for the play.
Jones and the rest of the theater department staff selected the production about a year ago when making decisions for the upcoming season.
“We started working on the play in early September,” said Dr. Michael Schwartz, a professor and assistant director at IUP. “It’s not a lot of time, and we have had to work on things very quickly, which has been one of the interesting challenges.”
Schwartz has not only been helping Sršen with the language barrier between Croatian and English but will also be the only faculty member in the play, acting as more than one character.
“His English is very good, but I can still step in and help with communication sometimes,” Schwartz said.
“The Brothers Karamazov,” a play addressing serious questions about free will, sin and the presence of a deity, is the third production that Matko Sršen has directed for IUP.
“I like to come to America,” Sršen said. “There is a very professional theater director at the university. I’ve always liked the American students here at this university, and therefore I like to come here.”
The production also features live music that will be sung by the actors.
“We had to learn some Latin hymns as well as some hymns that are in some sort of Slavic language,” Schwartz said. “It’s not a language that gets spoken every day; it mostly only gets spoken in churches.”
About $1,500 has gone into the materials for the production of “The Brothers Karamazov.”
“Our costume studio students and staff have been working from designs brought over by Sršen from a costume designer in Croatia,” Jones said. “They are getting a nice experience in stitching, pulling, dying and altering costumes based on a vision from someone else.”
The novel, which features themes of faith and doubt and which many Dostoyevsky fans label as their favorite, clocks in at over 700 pages.
“Sršen has condensed it into one evening’s play that anyone who hasn’t read the novel can see and appreciate.” said Jones, who also predicts that those who have read the book will have “an even greater experience.”
“This play will demand a lot of paying attention,” Schwartz said, “but it will reward that as well. This is the audience’s opportunity to get a lot out of a production and a lot to think about.”